Looking at the spread of colors, shapes, and lines smeared across the canvas that is J.G4 stars from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Looking at the spread of colors, shapes, and lines smeared across the canvas that is J.G. Ballard’s 1979 The Unlimited Dream Company, it’s easy to get lost in the details, the view to the whole submerged. Superficially disorienting to say the least, the narrative packs a bewildering visual punch while beneath the surface lurk the powers of nature, myth, and beast — the book is certainly art more than story. Surreal is only the beginning of the description. For those uninitiated to Ballard, strap yourselves in and prepare for a ride — on erotic wings.
The Unlimited Dream Company, if it were the work of a visual artist, would be part of Dali, Paalen, or Ernst’s portfolio. With imagery jumbled and intense in semi-recognizable fashion, Ballard twists the story of the protagonist Blake in neo-pagan, erotic, primeval fashion, drawing on the leitmotifs of the eponymous poet/painter to create his picture. Either dead or alive after a plane crash in the opening pages, the young man finds himself on the shores of the Thames in Shepperton, with an odd group of people looking on. Psychotic at best, Blake wanders the streets of the area like a mad man, having wild sexual fantasies, tea with a priest, stating the oddest, most unpredictable of things to strangers, and assisting the zoo keeper. Shepperton slowly converts into a dense jungle of birds, wildlife, and flowers of all variety in the wake of his mad roaming, and the story’s focus burgeons into “inner space.” ... read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Gwenda Bond has a real gift for writing believable, interesting teenaged protagonists,4.5 stars from Jana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Gwenda Bond has a real gift for writing believable, interesting teenaged protagonists, and puts that gift to use in Girl in the Shadows (2016), the second installment in her CIRQUE AMERICAN series and a companion to the first novel, Girl on a Wire. Though not a true sequel, many primary characters from Girl on a Wire return as supporting characters in Girl in the Shadows, and key events from the first book have a definite effect on the second. While it’s not necessary to read them in order, enough hints are dropped regarding previous mysterious and tragic events that new readers are sure to be interested in the entire series.
Moira Mitchell wants nothing more than to be a stage magician, following in the footsteps of lesser-known female magicians throughout history like Adelaide Herrmann, Lulu Hurst, and Annie Abbott. She’s quite skilled, and has even devised a number of ingenious illusions and unique sleight-of-hand tricks, but it’s difficult for her to get a break in the male-dominated world of stage magic. Her father, a famous Las Vegas magician, refuses to even let her assist with a simple card trick, and insists that she needs to go to college instead. When an invitation to the traveling Cirque American accidentally falls into Moira’s hands, she takes off for the Florida Everglades, where she charms her way into auditioning for the circus owner and organizers. Her intended routine goes wildly awry, however, and to everyone’s surprise, she appears to perform actual magic. Thurston Meyer, the owner, and Nan Maroni, the well-respected matriarch of a famous performing family, agree that Moira can join the Cirque American: Thurston because he thinks she’ll bring in customers, and Nan because she has a connection to real magic and wants to know what Moira is capable of. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
This review contains spoilers for the first three books in the Corum series.
Michael Moorcock’s CORUM series is comprised of two trilogies. In the first trilogy, Corum defeated the three Chaos rulers of the fifteen planes, giving Law back much of its lost power and thereby restoring the Balance. Starting eighty years later, the second trilogy starts with The Bull and the Spear (1973). As the book starts, we find that Corum has lived in peace with his great love, Rhalina; however, since he is one of the Vadhagh race, Corum lives much longer than humans do. As a result, he must watch Rhalina grow old and die along with all the people of her generation, all Corum’s friends and extended community. As time passes he grows more and more isolated instead of forging new friendships. Corum’s days of happiness and adventure seem over. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
In an advanced, multi-planetary empire replete with advanced technology and magical my3.5 stars from Kevin, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In an advanced, multi-planetary empire replete with advanced technology and magical mysticism, Captain Kel Cheris finds herself forced to use heretical tactics to save her troops when she puts down a sacrilegious rebellion. Unfortunately, her superiors in Ninefox Gambit (2016) aren’t quite sympathetic to her gambit, choosing to use her as a tool to revive and serve as a bodily host to the immortal spirit form of General Shuos Jedao to save the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a religious stronghold that’s critical to the civilization’s magics. It would be a difficult enough task for Cheris since the rebels have taken and are now defending what was supposed to be an impregnable fortress — but did I mention that Jedao is utterly, completely insane?
Jedao’s condition makes the interplay between Cheris and himself particularly interesting. As the rebellion grows in power, Cheris finds that she is forced to rely on Jedao’s expertise and military training to advance her mission, while it seems that Jedao takes pleasure in stymieing her efforts and routinely irritating her. A few chapters after Jedao’s appearance, I’ve been hooked by Jedao’s personality and his past. Yoon Ha Lee has created a fascinating cast with a colorful history and isn’t afraid to mix in stories of the past to expand on current themes and readers’ understandings of his world in Ninefox Gambit. Cheris especially has a very unique voice, and at no point did I find the dialogue or prose particularly lacking. All these factors combined make Ninefox Gambit a creative, complex story that, if not quite action filled at every turn, is enthralling for the internal struggles, mind games, and character development. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
It had been a good 30 years since I last read anything by British sci-fi author Brian3.5 stars from Sandy, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
It had been a good 30 years since I last read anything by British sci-fi author Brian Aldiss. Back in the mid-‘80s, spurred on by three highly laudatory articles in David Pringle’s Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, I had eagerly read Aldiss’ classic novel of a generational starship, Non-Stop (1958); his equally classic tale of an Earth billions of years hence, Hothouse (1962); and his underrated novel of an Earth gone sterile due to fallout radiation, Greybeard (1964), back to back to back (as well as his volume of linked stories, 1959’s Galaxies Like Grains of Sand) … and had loved them all.
But, between this and that, as I said, no Aldiss for me since then. On a whim, thus, I recently picked up the author’s The Dark Light Years, which had been patiently sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for a very long time. This novel, the author’s sixth in the sci-fi realm, does not enjoy as good a reputation as those first three just mentioned; Pringle, in his Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, says that the book is “enjoyable but minor Aldiss,” while The Science Fiction Encyclopedia refers to it as “a lesser work.” Still, as might be expected from a multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner, not to mention a future Science Fiction Grand Master, even lesser Aldiss has something to commend itself to the modern-day reader, now more than half a century since its release in 1964. An extremely cynical novel of first contact, The Dark Light Years (the lack of a hyphen between those last two words is annoying) takes place in the year 2035, except for the opening and closing sections, which transpire 40 years later. The book, in essence, gives us the history of Earth’s relationship with the so-called utods, a race that an Earth exploration ship had discovered on the planet Clementina, around 100 light-years distant. The utods, typically, are first found wallowing in a mudpit beside the banks of a river. Resembling two-headed hippopotami, the race is soon nicknamed “rhinomen” by the Terrans, who waste little time in slaughtering a half dozen of them and bringing a couple of others back to the Exozoo in London for study. Although the reader is made privy to the utods’ conversation amongst themselves — a conversation that quickly assures us that the utods are both intelligent and the products of a sophisticated culture — the various investigators who we meet cannot crack their language at all, and are fairly well convinced that these rhinomen are little more than interesting beasts … despite the fact that a small, wooden (!) spaceship had been found near the utods’ wallow on Clementina. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Warning: may contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Court of Fives
In Poisoned Blade, the second novel in her COURT OF FIVES trilogy, Kate Elliott builds on the strengths of Court of Fives and expands upon it, weaving tangled webs of intrigue, deceit, and impressively multi-layered political schemes. Anyone who thinks Young Adult fiction can’t successfully handle themes like a culture’s endurance in defiance of colonialism, the myriad socio-economic factors leading toward revolution, or racial and/or gender inequality, needs to read these books: Elliott covers these issues and much more while crafting a compelling narrative, interesting and unique characters, and a living, breathing world.
Poisoned Blade (2016) opens mere hours after Court of Fives ends, thrusting victorious Adversary Jessamy Garon (previously Tonor) into the highest echelons of Saryenia’s social classes. Her triumph at the Royal Fives Court brings riches and fame, enough to give her a taste of the security that could be possible for her family if she continues to win, but comes at the cost of her dear Lord Kalliarkos’ freedom. His defeat ensures his enlistment in the faction of the royal army under her father’s command, currently at war with the three other kingdoms of Old Saro. That same night, as she lurks on the outskirts of a lavish celebration, Jes accidentally overhears a whispered and unseen conversation implying that sinister plans are afoot which threaten the current Saroese rulers; shortly afterward, she is made aware that the so-called “Commoners” of the city, the true people of Efea, grow restless under generations of oppression and are making their own plans, led by a charismatic poet named Ro-emnu. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
The King of the Swords (1971) wraps up the first of the two trilogies that make up the CO5 stars from Brad, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
The King of the Swords (1971) wraps up the first of the two trilogies that make up the CORUM series. Between the end of this book and the start of the second trilogy in The Bull and the Spear, eighty years will pass. But The King of the Swords is a culmination of all the events set in motion in the first two books. The main event of The King of the Swords, of course, is Corum’s quest to defeat the King of the Swords, a Lord of Chaos who rules over the last five of the fifteen planes in this universe. Along the way, however, Corum must overcome other challenges, most of which seem more difficult than those he faced in his quests to defeat first the Knight and then the Queen of the Swords.
One challenge has to do with Corum’s quest for revenge against Man, the new race of beings known as Mabden. He has one man in particular with whom he wants to settle a score. At the beginning of the first book, The Knight of Swords, after they slaughter all of Corum’s race, the Mabden capture Corum. The leader of these violent Mabden, Glandyth-a-Krae, tortures our Eternal Champion by cutting off one hand and plucking out one eye. Luckily, Corum escapes before he is further tortured and finally killed. Corum, Moorcock tells us, is first taught the nature of revenge through Glandyth’s slaughter of his people, so other than his battle against the three Lords of Chaos in this trilogy, Corum has another quest: to seek out and defeat Glandyth. In each book, therefore, Corum faces Glandyth, but only in this final book is the story of their enmity brought to a definite close. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone fantasy book reviewsFour Roads Cross by Max Gladsto4.5 stars from Marion, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone fantasy book reviewsFour Roads Cross by Max Gladstone I can’t describe how much fun it was to be back with Tara Abernathy in Alt Coulumb in Four Roads Cross, Max Gladstone’s fifth book in the CRAFT SEQUENCE. In Tara’s world, a year has passed since Three Parts Dead, and Tara has been working hard in the city of the god Kos the Ever-burning. Now, a new threat, aimed at the nascent goddess Seril, the Lady of the Skies, emerges, forcing Tara to take even greater risks, and making her friends question nearly everything about their lives in the city.
Seril was believed to have been killed during the God Wars. Among the citizens of Alt Coulumb she is a fearsome myth, a mad god used to scare children, and her own children, the gargoyles, are viewed as monsters. Much of Seril’s essence was reworked into the demi-god named Justice. Justice was a powerfully functional machine that lacked compassion, empathy or mercy. Now that Seril has returned and merged with Justice, law enforcement seems to be changing slightly, but there are other stories, too, of winged creatures of stone who drop from the sky to save innocents who are in danger. The priests of Kos have kept the rebirth of Seril a secret, but that secret is leaking out, and the “shareholders” of Kos’s godly powers (soulstuff, measured in units of souls) are worried, and are looking to cash out their spiritual investments. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Wayward: String Theory is the first collection of yet another great new Image title. Jim4 stars from Brad, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Wayward: String Theory is the first collection of yet another great new Image title. Jim Zub tells the coming-of-age story of a teenaged girl, Rori Lane, travelling to Japan for the first time to stay with her Japanese mother, now divorced from Rori’s Irish father. The story behind the divorce is not explained in this volume, but evidently Rori’s had a rough time: Her psychological struggles manifest in physical self-harm; however, so far, this problem is touched on only lightly. In fact, other than a few brief encounters with Rori’s mysterious mother, Rori’s personal life is hardly developed.
The focus of this story is on yokai, a word used to describe the wide variety of spirits and monsters that make up the rich spiritual folklore of Japan. In fact, though this comic is drawn in the western style, in terms of content, it is in the Japanese tradition of yokai manga, a genre of manga created by the writer, manga artist, former soldier, and cultural anthropologist Shigeru Mizuki (see below). Because so many western comics borrow the superficial look of manga without employing their themes, content, or artistic story-telling techniques beyond mere surface appearance, it’s refreshing to see an American comic avoid these superficial imitations and instead reveal substantial influence in terms of genre. So, if you want to read a western comic that is truly influenced by manga, Wayward is the one to read. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Poul Anderson is, and mayhap always will be, the speculative fiction writer who most i2.5 stars from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Poul Anderson is, and mayhap always will be, the speculative fiction writer who most integrates myth and legend into fantasy and science fiction. The former is relatively easy given that myth and legend are typically already half fantasy, the latter is the more difficult given that one of the aims of science fiction is believable futuristic extrapolation. Failing spectacularly with The High Crusade (a novel that sees Medieval knights take a space ship to another planet to fight blue-skinned aliens), his 1970 Tau Zero is a more subtle mix. While lacking in fully humanized characters, it nevertheless captures the ideal of a mythological journey in hard SF form.
Tau Zero is the story of a group of fifty astronauts on a mission to a distant star system. The journey was planned to take five years subjective time, thirty-three years actual time, so the group know they are leaving their loved ones behind for good; the Earth they will return to in sixty-six years will be in differing circumstances. Their ship, the Leonora Christine, the most sophisticated, technologically-advanced spacecraft ever assembled by humanity, is capable of accelerating the vessel to near light speed with its massive Brussard ramjet. Blast off goes without a hitch, but when the ship flies through a nebula, a wrench is thrown in the works. The gas pedal is essentially stuck to the floor, and the astronauts must find a way to remove the figurative wrench as they inch closer to light speed and further from the reality they are most familiar with. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
A novella that packs the emotional punch of a full-length novel, Sarah Pinborough’s The L5 stars from Jana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
A novella that packs the emotional punch of a full-length novel, Sarah Pinborough’s The Language of Dying (2009) stealthily moves from an innocuous beginning to a stunning conclusion in the spare space of less than 150 pages. This work was nominated for a 2009 Shirley Jackson award and won a British Fantasy Award for Best Novella in 2010, and it’s obvious why: Pinborough writes beautifully and honestly about the complicated process of saying good-bye to a loved one, which would have been compelling material on its own, but the underlying current of potential madness and the repeated visits of a menacing force of nature slowly shift the mundane into the surreal.
As a woman prepares for her ailing father’s inevitable death, she ruminates on certain events leading up to these fragile last days, weighing her present-day activities like making endless kettles of tea and gently dabbing her father’s mouth with pineapple juice to ward off dehydration against childhood memories of staring out her bedroom window at night, waiting for a nameless and impossible presence to reveal itself, as it has on certain other occasions in her past. Her adult siblings have all come to see their father and gone, unable to bear the weight of his too-slow fading from health in addition to their own problems. Their individual inabilities to face the truth — not just in this instance, but in general day-to-day life — manifest in different ways, but at the core is a shared need to escape reality. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
I’ve been on a bit of a dinosaur run lately. Not because I suddenly grew interested in th4 stars from Bill, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
I’ve been on a bit of a dinosaur run lately. Not because I suddenly grew interested in the great creatures; that interest began at around age two or three and hasn’t waned a bit. No, it’s just simply that for whatever reason, a good number of new books have been released recently, including this review’s subject, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles (2016) by David Hone
As the title implies, Hone is working within a tightly constrained focus here rather than dealing with dinosaurs in general. His focus on tyrannosaurs (the group, not simply the singular Tyrannosaurus Rex) is laser sharp, allowing him to delve into what we think we know about the creature in great and all-encompassing detail. Some, particularly casual fans of dinosaurs, may very well find the book too detailed — it really does drill down into the nitty gritty — but if the granular details on bones, for instance, gets a little much for you, it’s easy enough to skim through to the next paragraph that zooms back out to a more accommodating level. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more